Legislative Flavor for March 18

The long-anticipated March revenue forecast that we have mentioned ad nauseum over the last month was not the only major budget news received that will impact Olympia’s budget negotiations.

Over the weekend, a report from the Office of Washington State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti detailed the expected federal funds coming from the American Rescue Plan to the Evergreen State. The state government is to receive $4.25 billion, with an additional $1.48 billion for counties and $1.18 billion for cities and other local governments. While certainly welcome, all the details are not yet known and may even lead the legislature to call a special session to give themselves additional time to sort out the strings attached to the federal dollars and its impact on the state budget. There is also an opinion among legislative-watchers that a special session would keep the legislature involved in the distribution of federal funds, rather than delegating that authority to Governor Inslee as occurred in during previous COVID-related federal funding.

For the forecast from the Washington State Economic Revenue Forecast Council, additional revenue is expected from an improved economy. There is an estimated $1.3 billion in revenue to government coffers before the end of this fiscal year, and $1.9 billion for the 2021-2013 biennium. For a little perspective, that expected increase brings the general fund state revenue forecast to $56.6 billion

The economic forecast was not sunshine and daisies for everyone, which legislators will have to take into consideration. Additionally, the impact of $1.9 trillion of federal stimulus funds creates its own uncertainties as more and more people receive COVID vaccinations. But for WACD’s goal of increasing state funding for voluntary conservation, these two announcements bringing new dollars into the state budget negotiations is good news.